I Didn't Speak Up
—an essay by Bonnie Wilkins Overcott

Artist: Allen Forrest 
I recognized the woman, with the bleached hair, dark roots and a life-worn face, struggling to pull her ponderous body up the steps of the bus. She was the woman who attempted to leave her child in the church nursery Sunday morning so she could do some shopping. She wasn’t a member of our church, but it was across the street from the grocery store, and I’m sure she knew her son would be safe with us. Something within the boy, though, did not want her to leave him. He cried and created such a fuss that she took him with her when she left.

She sat down on the seats facing me at the front of the bus, rifling through her purse for the bus fare. She was drunk. At one point, she put her arm and hand around her stomach and said, “I don’t feel well.” I was in no mood to get vomited on by a drunken woman, so I moved away to the middle of the bus.

A young professional man got on the bus and sat where I had been sitting. When she told the bus driver that she was just sure she had bus fare, the man across from her said, “I’ll give you the money for a bus ride, if you get off and take another bus.” People on the bus laughed. The woman began to weep as the bus driver assured her he’d drop her off when she reached her destination.

As she wept, she complained to the bus driver that she didn’t understand why people were so cruel. The young man wouldn’t let up. He berated her during the entire trip as the rest of the passengers laughed and clapped. Finally she reached her stop and thanked the bus driver for his kindness before she got off. As she put her foot on the ground, the entire bus cheered. She walked home with the insults and jeers echoing in her mind. And I never spoke up.

The Writer: Bonnie Wilkins Overcott writes nonfiction and fiction. She maintains a blog/resource at http://workinginthe21stcentury.com/. She previously wrote for newspapers, her employer’s newsletter/journal, and had a short story published in the Work Literary Magazine in July.
The Artist: Allen Forrest's work is a mix of avant-garde expressionism and post-Impressionist elements reminiscent of van Gogh. Allen Forrest can be found at his website or on twitter.